Jan. 24, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The 2014 college baseball season is officially here! The Florida State baseball team returned to the diamond Friday afternoon under chilly conditions marking the first official day of practice inside Dick Howser Stadium.
"If it wasn't just as exciting now as it was a few years ago, I wouldn't be here," Florida State's Mike Martin said as he enters his 35th season as head coach of the Seminoles. "I love this; I'm excited, the whole team is excited, it is one of those days, other than opening day, that you will always remember."
The Seminoles return 21 letterwinners from last year's squad that advanced to the Super Regionals for the sixth year in a row. Florida State returns six position starters including redshirt senior captain Justin Gonzalez who is back at shortstop after missing all but five games in 2013 with a right hip injury.
Preseason All-American DJ Stewart is coming off a freshman campaign in which he made 60 starts. The Yulee, Fla., native led the Seminoles in hits (82), batting average (.364), doubles (25) and slugging percentage (.560), while finishing second on the team with 59 RBI. Stewart closed out the season swinging a hot bat posting a .564 average over his final 10 games including a .636 average in the Tallahassee Regional that landed him a spot on the All-Tournament team.
Also returning for the Seminoles in the field are Jose Brizuela (Jr./3B/Westin, Fla.), Josh Delph (Jr./OF/Bartow, Fla.), John Nogowski (Jr./1B/Tallahassee, Fla.), John Sansone (So./2B/New Castle, Fla.) and Jameis Winston (So./OF, DH/Hueytown, Ala.).
On the mound, Florida State returns 11 pitchers including three starters that logged at least 58 innings a season ago and the return of redshirt sophomore right hander Mike Compton from Tommy John surgery. Luke Weaver, Brandon Leibrandt and Peter Miller went a combined 23-8 with a 3.00 ERA over 47 appearances last year. Weaver returns as the leader in innings pitched (98.1) and strikeouts (119), while Leibrandt collected 10 wins.
The bullpen will be loaded with plenty of experience led by senior Gage Smith, who returns for his third year after leading the Seminoles and the ACC in appearances in back-to-back seasons. Also providing depth to the bullpen are Kenny Burkhead (So./RHP/Deltona, Fla.), Bryant Holtmann (Jr./LHP/Albers, Ill.), Brandon Johnson (Sr./LHP/Tampa, Fla.), Dylan Silva (So./LHP/Lake Worth, Fla.), Billy Strode (Jr./LHP/Parkland, Fla.) and Winston. Winston is in line to become FSU's closer in 2014 following the departure of Robby Coles to the MLB Draft. Coles led the team with nine saves last year.
"We like these young men," added Martin when asked about the make-up of this year's team. "Obviously, we have a lot coming back and that is always exciting when you can look around and recognize everybody. The big thing is that we still got some positions that must be filled and we got some very good hitters on the club that need protection; therefore, we have to be sure that we get all of these guys on the same page."
Florida State will open the 2014 baseball season at home on Friday, February 14 against Niagara at 4:00 p.m. on Mike Martin Field inside Dick Howser Stadium.